Salt Marsh Sediment Augmentation Project

Stranded light-footed clapper rail on seal beach nwr

The USFWS applied a thin-layer of sediment over about 8 acres of existing low salt marsh habitat on the refuge in 2016.

Subsidence, limited sediment accretion, and sea level rise all contribute to the complete inundation of the Refuge’s Pacific cordgrass (Spartina folisa). During the higher high tides, the water level eliminates natural nesting areas for the rail. 

This pilot project is not only intended to improve the habitat quality for the rail, but also to evaluate the success of this project as a regional strategy to combat sea level rise. Hopefully, this will ensure long term sustainability of coastal marshes along the Pacific Coast.

Other areas along the Pacific coast, such as San Francisco Bay, are also employing similar pilot projects:
 West Coast Marshes Are Drowning, But There’s Still Time to Save Their Birds

  northwest corner looking west_255 pix new spartina growth 
In January 2017, observers found Pacific cordgrass reestablishing itself in various locations within the sediment augmentation site.

Science Advances ArticleU.S. Pacific coastal wetland resilience and vulnerability to sea-level rise

WebinarTesting a Novel Adaptation Strategy in a California Salt Marsh - Presented by Karen Thorne, USGS Western Ecological Research Center and Evyan Sloane, California State Coastal Conservancy on March 15, 2018

Through a partnership with local, State, and Federal agencies, USFWS secured funding to support pre- and post-sediment augmentation monitoring on the project site and nearby control site for five years.
Funding for this project has been provided by:
 usfws -75 OC parks CC cdfw USACE

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - 2015 Cooperative Recovery Initiative Grant   
California Coastal Conservancy Grant 
Orange County, OC Parks - Sediment and Application Contract   
California Department of Fish and Wildlife - Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program  
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Ecosystem Management & Restoration Research Program

Meet the Research Team

A team of researchers has been assembled to monitor the marsh's response to sediment application. The results will be shared with Federal, State, and local agencies, land managers, and others to assist in further developing this sea level rise adaptation strategy. 
UCLA – Richard Ambrose, Ph.D. & Glen MacDonald, Ph.D. 
CSU Long Beach – Christine Whitcraft, Ph.D.
Chapman University – Jason Keller, Ph.D.
Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy – Richard Zembal, Ph.D. and Susan Hoffman
Friends of Seal Beach NWR – John Fitch and Carolyn Vance

 Other Partners:

Jeff Crooks, Ph.D., Research Coordinator, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Contaminants Program, Coastal Program, I&M, and CA LCC 
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex 
Moffatt & Nichol (Engineering contractor)
Curtin Maritime (Dredge contactor)


Quarterly Report: June - September 2015 
Quarterly Report: October - December 2015
Quarterly Report: January - March 2016
Quarterly Report: September - December 2016 
Quarterly Report: January - March 2017
Quarterly Report: April - June 2017
Annual Report: June 2015 - September 2016 (6 MB)  
Annual Report: October 2016 - September 2017 (3 MB) 
Quarterly Report: October - December 2017 
Quarterly Report: January - March 2018  
Quarterly Report: April - June 2018 
Annual report: October 2017- September 2018 

 Webinars are also online: 



Additional project information can be found in the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and Final Environmental Assessment.

For more information on this project, please contact:
Rick Nye, Seal Beach NWR Refuge Manager
(562) 598-1024
Evyan Borgnis, Project Manager, CA State Coastal Conservancy
(510) 286-1883